ESPN hands ball to Genius

Net pacts with distrib over homevid content

ESPN will make Genius Products the exclusive distributor of the sports net’s home entertainment content in North America.

Move effectively houses ESPN’s homevid content in one place. The net previously sent out about a quarter of its DVD output through parent the Walt Disney Co.’s Buena Vista label and the rest through various outlets.

Agreement includes DVD rollouts of ESPN’s original entertainment content, including the series “Tilt” and “Playmakers,” as well as “Four Minutes,” “Through the Fire,” “The Junction Boys” and the upcoming “Ali Rap.” Deal also covers the SportsCentury, ESPN Classic, ESPN Outdoors, X Games and ABC Sports labels.

An ESPN spokesperson said the net had been shopping to consolidate its DVD output to create a more efficient model, and find one unit that could concentrate on leveraging ESPN’s niche product.

Genius handles homevid distribution and sales for Baby Genius, NBC News, Sundance Channel Home Entertainment, Wellspring and The Weinstein Co., which controls a 70% stake in Genius.

ESPN deal with Genius runs through 2011, and Genius will distribute a minimum of 15 titles per year.

Genius has been wheeling and dealing lately: Company inked a spate of pacts with BKN Intl., Seven Arts Pictures and Tartan USA, as well as deals to distribute TWC’s upcoming Dragon Dynasty and Unstable Fables brands.

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